Intellectual Property is not a concept of recent origin. In many countries it was conceptualised in the 1800s, however, it is only in the late 20th century that intellectual property became commonplace in the legal system across the globe.
Intellectual Property (IP) is a product of human intellect, that is a creation of the mind - inventions, literary, artistic work, symbols, names, images, etc. One does not get IP rights to an idea, process thought, or story, simply by it being in one’s mind.
In our effort to share more about a career in Intellectual Property Law with you, we interviewed Shubham Borkar, an IPR Practitioner and Consultant at R.K. Dewan & Co. Shubham is currently also pursuing his doctorate from Oriental University, Madhya Pradesh.
Please tell us a bit about yourself. What inspired you to pursue law?
My name is Shubham Borkar. I am an Advocate, a Start-up Coach, a Tax / IPR Practitioner and Consultant, a Business Developer, a Legal Author, and also a student of CS (Professional level). I graduated from National Law Institute University (Bhopal) and completed my Post Graduation (LLM) in Business Law and IPR and I am currently pursuing Juris Doctorate JD/Ph.D. in Trademarks Law and Artificial Intelligence.
I am presently associated with R.K Dewan & Co. as an Associate in IP Litigation, Prosecution. I have previously worked for Khurana & Khurana Advocates and IP Attorneys, Lakshmikumaran and Sridharan Attorneys.
In my school days, I never thought I would become a lawyer. I didn’t possess the requisite skills to become a lawyer. I was more interested in Science than Arts. Like every other child in our neighbourhood, I also dreamt of becoming an Engineer following in my father’s footsteps. To achieve that I sincerely prepared for IIT (JEE entrance). I lacked oratory skills and would shiver if my teachers asked me to recite anything during the morning assemblies. However, while preparing for IIT, my coaching professor, Late. Mr Maheshwari used to have discussions with us after classes on various topics of life. After one such discussion, he told me that I could excel if I pursued law or if I appeared for the UPSC. He said, “You will become a good engineer, Shubham, but I feel you will be a better lawyer or administrative officer”. After hearing him, I gave it sincere thought and started preparing for CLAT after my IIT classes. Over time, I realised that I was able to relate more naturally to legal subjects and enjoyed studying them. I appeared for both Engineering and CLAT examinations, and with God’s grace cleared both exams. But before even the results arrived, I was sure that I would not be enjoying engineering subjects and could not consider seeing myself as one. Thankfully, with my parent’s support, I joined NLIU, Bhopal, and pursued Law.
How did you begin your career after completing your law degree? At what point did you decide to pursue a career in Intellectual Property Rights (IPR)? What sparked your interest in the field?
From the beginning, I wanted to become a lawyer specialising in a particular subject. However, for a Science student, Arts subjects sounded like Latin to me. It was the second year of graduation when my interest was piqued in different specialisations of Law and I became aware of IPR. Since IPR had a harmonious blend of science and law, iI was more drawn to IPR. Thereafter, I applied for an internship with an IP firm. Initially, they were reluctant: being a 2nd-year student and having no knowledge of IPR, I wasn’t a good resource for them, but subsequently, they agreed after my interview. I gave my 100 per cent to learning during that one-month internship. Since then, I was sure of pursuing a career in IPR. After this internship, I went on to intern with all major IPR firms in India.
Currently, you’re working as an IP lawyer and consultant at R.K. Dewan & Co. engaged in both prosecution and litigation work, what does a regular day look like for an IP lawyer?
On a regular day, I have a few oppositions, counter statements/PR Responses/ agreements, and similar draftings. There are also enquiries both in-person and telephonically and as a consultant I address their queries, explaining the procedure of applying/registering for various IPs’, its related costs, and other details. Since I work for one of the biggest IPR firms in India, we have dedicated professionals for every task and as a senior, I also allocate tasks to the concerned person depending on the nature of the work. I also appear before the District Courts for hearings, as and when required. Apart from these, I also review all publications of R.K. Dewan. Our firm publishes many articles/newsletters/columns/ chronicles, and all of them are reviewed by our team.
In 2021, there was a remarkable increase in the number of Patents, Trademarks, Copyrights, Designs, and Geographical Indications published and filed. What are your views on these developments in the country?
In one word, promising! India has been continually working on reforming the IP sector. Government and other institutional bodies, whether public or private, are engaging themselves in conducting various awareness campaigns, seminars, and conventions to impart knowledge concerning IP. In the current scenario, even the Common Man is also equally informed about the sector because of the current Government’s policies like Aatmanirbhar Bharat, and Start-up India. All of these initiatives have resulted in this paradigm shift.
Parallelly, the Government has also increased the workforce in IP offices which has expedited the prosecution process.
Internationally speaking, India is performing better in comparison to many developed nations. We are not behind, we just started late in this race.
What are your views on India not having separate legislation for Trade Secrets at a time when everything is going on virtual mode due to the pandemic?
In this era of globalization, where companies offshore to various countries for expansion as well as cheaper labour, it is becoming increasingly difficult to protect business strategies and trade secrets. Businesses view technology as secrets rather than patentable information and considering the shift to virtual mode due to the Pandemic, the operations of all the body corporates are dealt with virtually, making it easier to hack the systems thereby enabling the leaking of trade secrets. In India, the only protection that trade secrets have received is through precedents and laws of equity. This absence has always been felt and accordingly, I believe that it is high time that India has its trade secret law.
Indian giant IT companies, such as Infosys, Tech Mahindra, and TCS have started creating metaverse experiences across their verticals. What are your views on Artificial Intelligence owning IP rights?
Witnessing the advent of technology and its advancements, we at RKD have already engaged ourselves in filing several trademark applications in the metaverse domain. Metaverse has become the new go-to domain. Every brand out there is looking for ways to explore opportunities that Metaverse offers. IP laws were originally human-centric. However, due to technological advancements, AI is grabbing the limelight. Hence, human-centric concepts like consumer confusion and imperfect recollection, would not work very well with AI technology, due to which there is a necessity to revamp trademark laws to accommodate AI-enabled devices.
How would you suggest our young students and professionals go about a career in IP law? What avenues are open in this field?
IPR being a niche field in law, interest in and willingness to join the field is a prerequisite. This field requires the student/professionals to be updated with current laws and technology and to have in-depth knowledge of the subject. I believe that only after interning in this field, young students who are genuinely interested in the subject and its core should pursue IPR as their subject. The current market scenario has tons of opportunities lined up for them, however, this sector is volatile, i.e., initially, it may seem slightly stagnant, and later as one grows, the opportunities are abundant. A career in the field of IPR laws requires endurance and persistence.
Avenues like working as a Consultant in a Law firm, working as an in-house consultant for corporations, being appointed as a Professor in a law institution or acting as an independent IPR law practitioner in your firm, are open to young professionals who wish to pursue a career in this sector.